When appointing your fire safety consultants there are many key factors that make up a sound decision, one of those is assessing the competence of the prospective partner. As a person responsible for managing a large portfolio of buildings you will want to ensure that any contractor visiting your site can leave it in a better place.
Fire Risk Assessments are a legislative requirement and the quality of that Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) is established not just by walking around a building and compiling a report. The quality of the FRA that you, as the responsible person, are left with is down to a few main factors, the experience and knowledge of the assessor, the ongoing personal development of that assessor and the quality of the question set making up the assessment.
Finding a competent Fire Risk Assessor
Surprisingly, you do not require any previous knowledge of fire safety to become a fire risk assessor. To become proficient, an assessor would need to attend a course and become accredited by an awarding body, but much like passing a driving test, that is the point where the learning really starts.
It is not as simple as spending time in our fantastic Fire Service either, although that obviously helps with a knowledge of fire and its causes. There are various departments within the service that specialise in Business Fire Safety and that is where many of the best assessors are from. They would have spent many years, dealing directly with businesses and buildings, advising how best to safeguard lives and property.
Many assessors specialise in one type of building, i.e. schools or care homes and you should ask where their core competency lies. For example, if you have a property portfolio made up primarily of high-rise or residential buildings but the assessor’s core competency is retail units then there may be some challenges.
Accredited Fire Risk Assessors
Any assessor who becomes accredited and is responsible for carrying out assessments will need to ensure that they are constantly topping up their knowledge and skills to match the latest guidelines and legislation. For many working on their own that may mean simply reading material published by awarding bodies but for more established companies this will be part of a planned CPD program run by a Head of Fire Safety or similar position. They may be expected to read and attend courses as well as participate in dialogue and internal forums designed to promote best practice and personal development.
Finally, any Fire Risk Assessment is only as good as the questions being asked within it. The question set can be very basic such as “check emergency lighting” or it could then lead the assessor to check the colour of the covers or the strength of the bulbs. Going over and above minimum required standards will ensure a more suitable and sufficient outcome. How do their assessors carry out assessment? Pen and Paper or App based?
Questions to ask
Ask them to give you examples of previous FRA’s carried out so you can see the details within the question set.
Ask your prospective partners what makes them competent?
What is the skill set and background of their assessor pool?
How do they ensure that any assessors are up to date with legislation and guidelines?
Having confidence in the competency of the assessors and the business they work for will be paramount in giving you the belief required that your portfolio is being assessed to the highest possible standards